The former president of Colombia has hired a powerful Republican lobbying and public relations firm as he battles allegations of links to right-wing paramilitary groups responsible for multiple massacres in the country’s long war with Marxist guerrillas.
Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s president from 2002 to 2009, has hired Washington’s DCI Group for $40,000 per month to “provide communications and public affairs support” as Uribe’s main point of contact with the international media. The contract is with a company in Medellin called 31416 S.A.S. that is acting “in support of” Uribe.
The contract was effective Aug. 21 and runs through Nov. 30. It was signed by Uribe’s son, Tomas Uribe Moreno.
“The illegal arrest and detainment of former President Alvaro Uribe – while avowed terrorist leaders are walking free today in Colombia – is an outrage,” DCI Managing Partner Justin Peterson said in a press release. “He should be freed immediately and allowed to defend himself against these baseless and politically motivated allegations. We are proud to help President Uribe tell his story.”
Uribe, who is currently a senator, has been under house arrest since Aug. 4 as the country’s Supreme Court decides whether he should stand trial for bribery and witness tampering regarding decade-old allegations of ties to right-wing paramilitary groups. Over the weekend the Associated Press and local media reported that the high court also wants him to testify in an investigation into three massacres and the death of a human rights activist during his time as governor of the northwest province of Antioquia in the late 1990s.
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Uribe’s ties to the United States run deep. He was a key partner in the George W. Bush administration’s war on drugs in the Western Hemisphere.
Uribe was rewarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999 for his successful campaigns against the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) and the subsequent demobilization of the right-wing United Self-Defenses of Colombia (AUC). His former vice-president, Francisco Santos Calderon, is now the Colombian ambassador to the United States.
Earlier this month, US Vice-President Mike Pence alluded to those ties in calling for Uribe’s release from house arrest so he can “defend himself as a free man.”
In its press release, DCI said 20 former Latin American heads of state have also joined the call to release Uribe.
Peterson, an alum of Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, signed the contract on DCI’s behalf. Also registered to lobby on the account are Vice President and head of DCI’s Latin America practice Kevin Ivers and senior account manager Andres Taborda.
Updated: This post was updated at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 26 with comment from the DCI Group.